If you love polenta but not the time it takes to prepare it properly, then you'll love this dish. Here, delicate grains of semolina—coarsely ground durum wheat—are cooked in much the same manner as polenta, but for far less time. Patricia Wells likes to cook the semolina in whole milk that has been scented with bay leaf, then she flavors it with a touch of freshly grated nutmeg and Parmigiano–Reggiano cheese. Any leftovers can be smoothed into a gratin dish, dotted with butter and additional cheese and placed under a broiler to brown.
In this recipe, you can use either fine semolina or what is sold as semolina flour for making pasta. If you can't spare the time to infuse the milk with the bay leaves, simply add the bay leaves to the semolina as it is simmering in Step 2 and remove them before serving.
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (2 ounces)
Freshly grated nutmeg
In a large nonreactive saucepan, bring the milk and bay leaves to a boil over moderate heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the milk steep for 1 hour.
Bring the milk to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the sea salt and gradually add the semolina in a thin, steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumping. (If any lumps form, press them against the side of the pot and they will disappear.) Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until the semolina becomes a soft mass that cleanly pulls away from the sides of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in the cheese and a sprinkling of nutmeg. Discard the bay leaves and serve at once.